Of all forms of abuse, sexual abuse is the most likely to go unreported; particularly when it happens to a child. Parents and teachers often miss the hints that are dropped by a child who has been victimized by child sexual abuse. The child is testing the waters for a reaction and when the hints are missed, the opportunity to help is gone.
When child sexual abuse is reported
There is recent research that indicates that the old presumption that children will give one detailed, clear account of child sexual abuse is false. Disclosures of abuse often come out gradually, sometimes as a series of hints. The first hint is often used by the child to test the adult’s reaction; they may then follow-up with a bigger or clearer hint if the first hint was handled well. Sadly, hints are often missed by adults and it turns into a lost opportunity to provide help to the child. In addition to children dropping information in hints, it is important to understand that disclosure is often delayed until adulthood because children fear a negative reaction or of being further harmed by the abuser.
Male children are even less likely than female children to report being sexual abused. This could be partly attributed to the fact that men feel societal pressure to be proud of early sexual activity, even if it was unwanted.
According to a study of adults called “Children and Young People Disclosing Sexual Abuse: An Introduction to the Research,” suggests that factors such as the relationship to the perpetrator, age at the first incident of abuse, use of physical force, severity of abuse and demographic variables like gender and ethnicity impact a child’s likelihood of disclosing abuse.
When children do disclose sexual abuse:
- It is often to a friend or sibling but of all adults, mothers are most likely to be told.
- It is rare for children to report abuse to authorities or professionals but teachers are most likely to be told of those in this group.
Professionals used to wrongly promote the idea that children frequently report false accounts of abuse. Current research shows a lack of systematic evidence that false allegations are common as are recantations of abuse.
Who perpetrates child sexual abuse?
The majority is sexual abuse perpetrators (about 60 percent) are known to the child but are not family members. Commonly these are people trusted by the family such as family friends, babysitters, child care providers and neighbors.
About 30 percent of sexual abuse perpetrators are family members while only about 10 percent are strangers.
It is important to understand that not all perpetrators are adults. In approximately 23 percent of reported cases of child sexual abuse, the perpetrator is also under the age of 18.
A civil injury lawyer, also called a personal injury lawyer is the best type of attorney to handle a civil case for the victim of sexual assault. If you were victimized by a sexual assault, seek the guidance of a civil injury attorney who can go over the details of your case and help you fight for damages.
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